Islamic State seizes northern part of Palmyra, Syria

Islamic State seizes northern part of Palmyra, Syria
Ancient ruins of Palmyra. (Image: AFP, Joseph Eid via Yahoo!)

[Ed. – Palmyra has been an inhabited city since at least 2000 B.C.  It’s one of the oldest UN heritage sites, stuffed with priceless antiquities.  But it also lies on a key East-West artery between Damascus and the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.  It has operational as well as strategic value.]

Jihadists from the Islamic State group seized control Saturday of the northern part of Syria’s ancient desert city of Palmyra after fierce clashes with government forces, a monitoring group said.

“IS advanced and took control of most of northern Palmyra, and there are fierce clashes happening now,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

He said 13 jihadist fighters were killed in ongoing clashes near the Islamic citadel in the city’s west. …

Most of Palmyra’s renowned ruins, including colonnaded streets and elaborately decorated tombs, lie to the southwest of the city. …

The head of Syria’s antiquities department, Mamoum Abdulkarim, meanwhile voice concern for the ancient site.

“I am living in a state of terror,” Abdulkarim told AFP in a telephone call. …

IS began its offensive on Palmyra on Wednesday and inched closer to the ancient metropolis on Thursday and Friday, executing at least 49 civilians over those two days according to the Observatory.

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